Ralph Waldo Emerson
Biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson's father was a Unitarian minister who died leaving his son to be brought up by his mother and aunt. Educated at Harvard, Emerson began writing journals filled with observations and ideas which would form the basis of his later essays and poems.
After a period of teaching, Emerson returned to Harvard to join the Divinity School where he was less than a perfect student owing to his poor health and a lack of conviction in religious dogma. He was ordained and was both effective and popular as a preacher, but felt compelled to resign because he did not feel he could conscientiously serve communion. In 1832 Emerson visited Europe, where he met Wordsworth, Coleridge and Carlyle through whom he became interested in transcendental thought. His meeting with Coleridge was to prove particularly influential as Emerson developed his themes of two levels of reality, the physical and the supernatural or Oversoul as he later called it.
On his return to Boston Emerson concentrated on lecturing rather than preaching, and lectures such as The Philosophy of History would form the foundation of future writings. He settled in Concord in 1835 where he became friends with other figures in the transcendental movement such as Thoreau and Hawthorne and began writing for and editing The Dial. After his second Essays, Emerson's writing began to show less confidence in the individual. He returned to Europe in 1847 and renewed his friendship with Carlyle, with whom he had kept in touch by letter, and met other European thinkers and writers.
During his last years he became increasingly involved in the anti-slavery campaign, but fell a victim to dementia, writing Terminus in the realisation that his intellect was failing.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson Poems
Deep in the man sits fast his fate To mould his fortunes, mean or great: Unknown to Cromwell as to me Was Cromwell's measure or degree;
Give All To Love
Give all to love; Obey thy heart; Friends, kindred, days, Estate, good-fame,
I love thy music, mellow bell, I love thine iron chime, To life or death, to heaven or hell, Which calls the sons of Time.
Knows he who tills this lonely field To reap its scanty corn, What mystic fruit his acres yield At midnight and at morn?
Song Of Nature
Mine are the night and morning, The pits of air, the gulf of space, The sportive sun, the gibbous moon, The innumerable days.
Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days, Muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes, And marching single in an endless file, Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.
The mountain and the squirrel Had a quarrel; And the former called the latter "Little Prig." Bun replied,
Was never form and never face So sweet to SEYD as only grace Which did not slumber like a stone, But hovered gleaming and was gone.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April's breeze unfurled, Here once the embattled farmers stood And fired the shot heard round the world.
If the red slayer think he slays, Or if the slain think he is slain, They know not well the subtle ways I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Can rules or tutors educate The semigod whom we await? He must be musical, Tremulous, impressional,
Man was made of social earth, Child and brother from his birth; Tethered by a liquid cord Of blood through veins of kindred poured,
Higher far, Upward, into the pure realm, Over sun or star, Over the flickering Dæmon film,
If I could put my woods in song And tell what's there enjoyed, All men would to my gardens throng, And leave the cities void.
The sense of the world is short, -
Long and various the report, -
To love and be beloved;
Men and gods have not outlearned it;
And, how oft soe'er they've turned it,
'Tis not to be improved.